This essay concerns the law of mistaken self-defense in England and Wales. It considers the widely held view that the honest mistake rule is wrong because it relates the mistake to mens rea. It accordingly fails to distinguish between offense and defense, and within defenses between justification and excuse. I argue against this view that these core criminal law concepts are fluid and irresolute. Mistaken self-defense can be analyzed in terms of an irreducible chiasmus (antithesis) in the law between "doing the right thing for a wrong reason" and "doing the wrong thing for a right reason." This makes it doctrinally unstable. When this is understood, it becomes clear that it may sometimes make moral and legal sense to analyze mistaken self-defense as concerning proof of mens rea, and sometimes not. What determines the matter in individual cases is a political understanding of the nature of citizenship in modern society. The analysis is offered in the light of recent police killings of innocent members of the public in London.
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